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“Kids and Family” Adventure Safari 2009

 

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This is a description of a 11-night/12 day Kids and Family African Safari, from Mount Kilimanjaro through the northern wildlife ecosystems of Serengeti and the Great Rift Valley, with an optional 4-night trip to the tropical beaches of Zanzibar Island. The trip is planned to be both kid-friendly and parent-friendly. We have designed the itinerary to focus on locations that allow kids some personal freedom to safely explore their environment. For parents, our schedule is designed to be affordable, yet provide an in-depth family safari adventure in a stress free group environment. Africa is a wonderful place for kids, as there is so much to see and explore. It is also a place where kids are looked after and cared for by their whole community. Our safari will be no different, so you can enjoy your safari adventure with a whole safari crew looking after you and your family.

 

June is also an excellent time to be in Tanzania, as the weather is good; there are few other visitors to the parks at this time; the airfares are low; and the best lodges and accommodations are available.

 

 

Safari Style

 

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Our group safaris are designed for active people of any age. Although our safaris are comfortable and at times “luxurious,” they are planned and designed to emphasize the quality and depth of the experience rather than simply to maximize luxury, as these goals can be conflicting.

 

Although we have carefully planned this itinerary to share with you as much as we can, all activities described in this itinerary should be considered optional. Anyone who wants to take a break from the group to relax and read a book under a tree while the camp crew makes some popcorn, is welcome.

 

 

Costs and Group Size

 

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The safari cost if using lodges throughout the trip for adults is $3,915 and children under 12 are $2,895 and if using lodges and three nights in luxury tents at special campsite in Serengeti National parks on the trip for adults is $4,215 and children under 12 are $3,550. An additional Zanzibar Island Excursion of 4 nights/5 days can be added for $1,580 per person. This cost does not include international airfare. The cost is based on a maximum group size of 20 (adults and kids), and a minimum group size of 8. Reservations are made with a $500 deposit. The safari cost includes virtually everything from when you arrive in –country until you depart, including meals, accommodations, transport, flights from the Serengeti, park fees, guides, and even some wine with meals. 

 

Safari Schedule and Description

 

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Day 1:  We will meet your morning flight into Kilimanjaro International Airport, or if you arrived the day before, we will pick you up at the lodge we took you to. Then we are off to Ndarakwai, a private 11,000 acre reserve on the western slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is an amazing place off the beaten path of most tourists. Here you will have the chance to see a part of Tanzania that most people don't get to.

 

The camp is a permanent camp with luxurious tents under thatch and en suite bathrooms, complete with hot showers. Okay, somebody has to bring the hot water to the tent (not you), but the showers are hot and wonderful after a day walking through the wilds. There is a dining area under thatch with two beautiful fireplaces and couches that are wonderful to sit on and talk of the day's activities and adventres. We also have a campfire going if you want to sit under the southern stars, enjoying a cold one and some popcorn while trying to figure out the new constellations.

 

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While we are on the reserve, there is no real need for everyone to stick together once we have our bearings. There are guides, vehicles and mountain bikes ready if you want to go walking driving or riding around the reserve. Or maybe grab a book, binoculars and a camera and head on out to the tree house overlooking the local watering hole. At the worst, it's a nice way to spend an afternoon, and you never know if some elephant or zebra will come by for a swim. Last summer we counted 68 elephant coming to the watering hole over a two hour period  What an afternoon. You can take a walk around with Thomas, the head ranger at Ndarakwai. He will show you many animals that you wouldn't normally see and explain the medicinal qualities of elephant dung. Or, you can just relax around camp. Oftentimes there will be baboons paying in the meadow across from the tents and you never what will come through the area.  A couple of years ago, the first person of our group to see an elephant did so while having his morning tea near the dining tent, as the elephant just walked through the camp, while everyone else was out for a game drive.  

 

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We'll spend our first afternoon on any number of adventures, or just relax around camp and get over the jet lag. It's a great place for the kids to run around so you will be able to relax without having to keep an eye on them.  The staff here are absolutely the finest and genuinely delight in having the kids around.

 

Day 2: Wake up in a beautiful place you have never seen before, tucked on the lower west slope of Kilimanjaro. We will spend two more days here. Breakfast is at 8:30 am. If you so choose, you can get up at dawn and do an early morning game drive with one of the guides, and return for breakfast. After breakfast there will be plenty of time for more game drives,  walking safari through the reserve and visiting the treehouse.

 

There is a local school we can go visit that we visited last year that eveyone enjoyed. At first it was a bit ackward, all the students standing around looking at us and our kids, but a soccer ball came out, teams were chosen and a rousing game of soccer quickly ensued with one of our drivers officiating. The girls started showing the moms some of their games, and one of our mom's, who is a pre-school teacher when not on safari, showed them all the hokey pokey. There was a tug of war and major jump roping. At one point we had five kids jumping the rope until they all fell down from laughing too hard. All too soon it was time for the kids to start walking home and so we left, promising to come back again with a new soccer ball and some reading books, which the school sorely needs.

 

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There is also a Maasai boma (village) nearby that we can visit. It's fun to go there around sunset as the Maasai are bringing in the cattle for the night and milking them. into the gords. Thomas, who is also a Maasai elder, can explain many aspects of village living and some of the issues being faced by these people in these modern times.

 

There is also a 7-year-old baby orphaned elephant, named “Nkarsis” (“Princess” in Maasai), here at the reserve that was found separated from its mother. Peter Jones, the reserve owner, took her in and has nursed her back to health with special milk from Nairobi and round-the-clock care. Like all youngsters, she is playful and loves attention. She now is off with a herd, but she comes by every now and then and grazes nearby the camp and might come wandering by to give us all a good sniffing! She has grown quite a bit since this picture was taken.

 

Another dinner around the campfire. It is possible that local guests will arrive from nearby villages and it’s time for stories and plans for the next day. If you’re not sleepy, head off with a guide for a night game drive.

 

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Day 3:  Today will be a repeat of the previous day since there is so much to see and everyday is different, or you can choose to take an optional day trip up the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This will be an all-day deal, but the group can split. For adults and kids over twelve, we can go up  through the Londorosi Gate in the Land Rovers, about an hour away, then work our way up to the Shira Plateau by vehicle -- an absolutely beautiful area all the way. Farmlands give way to alpine and montane forests, which then yields to high altitude shrub and flowers above the tree line. It’s Kilimanjaro! Final elevation for the hike will be about 10,000 - 11,000 ft.  There we can hike around on the plateau for a few hours and then head back to camp.

 

For those under twelve, we can head around to the Kenyan side of the mountain to a couple of larger villages to see how they live there. The Tanzanian Park service does not let children under 12 up on the mountain. I think the reason for that is that most people going up on the mountain plan on climbing to the summit near 20,000 feet high. That kind of elevation is no place for someone under 12, and the Park officials are not willing to change their policy even though we are only going for the day.

 

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Day 4:  Awake for breakfast, pack up and say goodbye to Ndarakwai as we depart for Arusha National Park (ANP), in 4WD Land Rovers with open shaded tops. There is a lot to see in ANP and we will be on foot for most of it. Arrive at ANP after about a two hour drive. We will likely see a lot of wildlife and birds on the way, especially giraffe, Cape buffalo, waterbuck and zebra. In the park, a ranger will lead us up the slopes of Mt. Meru through a mostly alpine environment which includes open glens, canopied forests, water falls and elephant grass. This place is reminiscent of Jurassic Park, with African big game taking the place of dinosaurs. As the group decides, we can either go slow and spend time observing a few locations in detail or go more quickly and cover more ground. We will have lunch on the trail and be back at the gate before 4 pm. On past trips people have said this was one of the highlights of the trip -- walking through a meadow with giraffe, buffalo and other wildlife all around us. On the trail we will likely also see elephant, colobus monkey, baboons, warthog and even leopard if we are lucky!

 

 

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Once back at the gate, we will head to the other half of the park, accessible only by vehicle. This includes Ngurudoto Lake and Crater. Expect to see large flocks of flamingos grazing in the shallow lake. Small antelope called dik-dik and guinea fowl (kanga) are also common. We also might get to see Mt. Kilimanjaro peeking out of the clouds a short distance to the East. 

 

Around three o'clock, we will head to Tarangire National Park where we will stay at the Tarangire Safari Lodge, overlooking the Tarangire River. There is nothing like watching the sunset with a cold one in hand, watching a herd of elephants cross the river down below.

 

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Day 5: Waken to the sound of hundreds of birds singing the sun up. We can go on a game drive before breakfast or take a leisurely morning sitting on the deck listening to the birds while sipping coffee or tea.

Tarangire is absolutely our favorite park in East Africa. There is just something about it. It’s laid back, wild and it always makes you feel like we are the only ones there. Big fat baobob trees dot the landscape, elephants roll in the mud down at the river and prides of lions swagger around like they own the place…and they do!

For lunch, we can have our choice of a picnic lunch or lunch back at the lodge.  After lunch, it's good to relax a bit around the pool or sitting in the lobby looking out over the river. We will resume our safari adventureelephant duo1.jpg with an afternoon/early evening game drive. Wildlife are usually the least active during mid-day, so this is our time to relax also. We have the rest of the day to explore this amazing park that straddles the Tarangire River. During the dry season it is the main water source for the wildlife, so prides of lions take up residence near the river and wait for lunch “on-the-hoof” to come to them. There are also lots of elephants, giraffe, wildebeest, baboons, zebra and hyenas to be seen here, in addition to an amazing array of bird life.

Day 6:  A travel day. We break camp after breakfast and will drive across the Loliondo Plains and the Great Rift Valley. Our night’s lodging will be at the Manyara Lodge on the escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley.

 

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Manyara Lodge is classic Africa, with all the modern conveniences, a pool and decks looking out over Lake Manyara and the Rift Valley. The grounds are large so the kids can run around without bothering any other guests, the pool is always a favorite, and the view is absolutely spectacular. This location is ideal for local cultural excursions and walking tours in the surrounding communities.  The lodge is a 15-minute drive from the town center of Mto wa Mbu. There is a bustling market there, and lots of things to see, do and buy. This is also perhaps the best place in the world to buy bananas…red ones, yellow ones, green ones; short, long, fat or thin. They got ‘em all. Try the ones called ice cream bananas!

  

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Day 7:  A full day of individual activities at Manyara lodge. This day is intentionally left unstructured. The primary purpose is to give us a break from the group activities and allow some individual down time to explore on your own. We will leave it to the group members to decide how to arrange their time; however there will be lots of possibilities. We will arrange a guided cultural tour through parts of Mtu wa Mbu to see how people live and farm in this area. It would not be unlikely to have a quick pick-up soccer game with the local kids. Last year it seemed that we had half the town's kids incredibly interested in our kids. They don't usual;ly see such a gang of western kids.

 

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The Maasai Market is in town and a great place to do some of your early Christmas shopping. And if you want some dried fish, there is that too. All the guides and vehicles will be available, and you are welcome to go off on your own adventures. Talk with the guides and they will help plan and arrange excursions for you. Or, just sit back by the pool, gaze out over the Rift Valley, take a deep breath and let it all sink in.

 

 

 

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Day 8:  After breakfast, we pack up and continue west, 6,000 ft up into the Ngorongoro highlands.

The Crater rim is only an hour or two away from Manyara Lodge, so we will have time to descend to the floor of the 100-square-km caldera for all day game drives, birding and a picnic lunch by a small lake in the crater.

Although there are lots of bird species, including flamingos, vultures, marabouk stork, secretary birds, etc, the kites that hang out at the lake where we stop for a picnic can steal the show with their acrobatic skills. These birds are a joy to watch even for a neophyte birder. They are also brazen thieves and we will do well to watch our lunches closely, as they are so agile and quick that they can swoop down and pick a morsel of food out of your hand before it reaches your mouth.

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Ngorongoro crater also hosts a small population of extremely rare black rhino. These creatures were hunted mercilessly throughout the ’80s for their horns, but now conservation efforts have tentatively begun to turn the tide. We don’t always get to see rhino here, but when we do it is an inspiring sight.

 

We will spend the night at the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge high up on the Crater's rim. Sunset on the deck with a gin & tonic, watching a herd of elephants grazing 2,000 feet below is a most excellent way to end an African day!

 

 

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Day 9: This morning we will continue west down into the Ndutu short grass plains of the southern Serengeti. On the way we will stop at Olduvai Gorge to visit the archeological site there. It's afascinating place to visit as it is where the Leakey's found the first evidence of early humans, and there is an interesting little museum to visit. It's also a welcome rest stop and a good place for the kids to get up and about. 

 

We continue from there to the shifting sand dune, which is a sand dune out in the middle of flat scrub. It's a singular crescent shaped sand dune that has slowly migrated along the plane. It's fun to climb up and even more fun to jump down from. After the kids have had a chance to run around it's back in the vehicles for another hour to the Naabi Gate, entrance to Serengeti. We'll have a picnic lunch and head on across the Serengeti to our camp.

 

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The Serengeti is about the size of a New England state, and in contrast to Ngorongoro, has no permanent human habitation other than some small park facilities. At any given time there are perhaps less than a couple hundred humans in the whole place. On the short grass plains, land birds such as ostrich, cory bustard and secretary birds are very common. There are also several species of vulture, which can amazingly appear in large numbers out of a clear empty blue sky within minutes of a kill. Cheetah, lion, leopard, hyena and other major predators rule the plains here.

 

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Our camp will be an edge habitat between the grasslands and savannah forests. We will stay here in our “island in the plains” for three nights. There are lots of animals here and we humanoids will be vastly outnumbered. Depending on the weather we may see the vast herds of wildebeest on the plains or we will look for them farther north. 

 

 Our transit across the plains to our camp will take all day, so we will arrive at camp at sunset. Our trusty camp crew will have a classic tented safari camp ready for us including individual tents with sheeted beds, a shower, toilet, bar, and dining tent. We’ll unpack, open the bar, and have an elegant dinner overlooking the setting sun over the Serengeti Plains. Look out around the camp perimeter with your flashlight to see the glowing eyes looking back at you!

 

 

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Day 10: Awake to another most excellent situation in the middle of the Serengeti.  Plan on an early morning game drive at dawn, with a return to the camp for breakfast.  After breakfast on this first morning we will prepare for a journey along the Grumeti River where the giant crocodiles munch unlucky wildebeest. The crocodiles will be there, rain or shine, along with large herds of hippo, whom they don’t dare mess with. There is a secret spot we have found here, a rope bridge suspended above the river from which to watch the giant crocs swim by.  There is plenty to explore or, as always, to simply sit and relax under the shade of an Acacia tree and enjoy the sights and smells of the savannah.

 

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We'll have a few vehicles, so if people want longer game drives than others, that is no problem. If kids want to get out of vehicles, we can send kids back to camp where they can do the things they do around a camp (without the exploring the area) while the adults and older kids continue on game drives.

 

Day 11: Another day to explore the Serengeti. There is so much to see and do in this wondrous area. Our drivers will have talked with other drivers they meet and will have some good ideas of where to go to see various animals. We'll talk, confer and decide on what directions we want to go and then head off to see what the day has in store for us.

 

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Day 12: Another travel day, but not in the Land Rovers. After breakfast we can go on short game drives or relax at the camp before packing up and heading to the nearby grass airstrip for the short flight back to Arusha; or for those continuing their safari, on to Zanzibar. The view from the plane as we fly over the Serengeti is phenomenal.  The first time I made this flight I looked down at the vast open plains, and the smoldering volcanic cones in the distance, and imagined that I was in the middle of nowhere.  Then I realized that, in fact, I was in the middle of everything.  This is where life began for us humans, ground zero for the explosion of human civilization, and my trip here was really a homecoming to the cradle of our birth.   Seeing it from the air gives one a grand perspective, and I couldn’t help thinking – there’s no place like “home”.

 

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Those that are ending their safari here will arrive back in Arusha with the rest of the day to explore the town, shop and prepare for their return flight. The rest of us, lucky enough to be able to stay on for the optional Zanzibar stay, will continue on our direct flight to begin our four days on the islands!

 

  

 

Zanzibar!

 

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In the minds of most people, Zanzibar is more a mythical land than a real place. The 800,000 people living on this archipelago, the original Spice Islands, are part of an ancient culture unique to coastal East Africa. Indeed, the Swahili coast, and especially Zanzibar, is an incredible melting pot of the dozens of seafaring peoples who have plied the waters of the Indian Ocean—the Persians, Portuguese, Indians, Omanis, and British, just to mention the arrivals in the last 1,000 years.

 

Although Zanzibar is world famous for its white sand beaches, azure blue waters and coral reefs, many travelers here feel that beach life is but a small part of the visit. Experiencing the multi-ethnic cultural diversity, the grace and kindness of the local people, and the natural beauty of the island, are all part of the exotic charms of the Island. Visitors here often find their real element shopping and bargaining in the bazaar atmosphere of Stonetown, finding exotic treasure they never thought of, for next to nothing.

 

 

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Day 1: We'll be met at the airport and transported to the eastern side of the island to the Sau Inn at the town of Jambiani. It sits on a beautiful lagoon with long white beaches and soft blue ocean. It's a very different place than the Serengeti, far less dusty and it is wonderful to jump into the warm Indian Ocean or the pool to wash off the dust. The rest of the day is free for swimming in the Indian Ocean, relaxing on the beach or enjoying local delicacies from the kitchen.

 

Our accommodations are located right on the beach, and there are lots of activities for the kids to enjoy, including swimming, playing on the beach, or taking a walk in town. Jambiani is a very friendly town and exptremely welcoming.

 

 

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Day 2: Wake to the sounds of the ocean waves brushing the sand outside your room and the smell of spice than permeates the air. Take a quick dip or a stroll down the beach, followed by breakfast. We'll orient you to the island and suggest a number of activities and excursions that may be of interest. The schedule that follows is a suggestion of some interesting activities. However, it should be considered an open schedule that can be altered in any way or completely ignored.

 

The morning, depending on the tides will be spent relaxing and playing on the beach or going out on a sailboat to go snorkeling in the lagoon.  It's a great sail out to the edge of the reef, and then we can put on masks and snorkeld (provided) and enjoy the wonders that await under the water's surface. We have to do this at high and will come in as the tide goes out.

 

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The area gets very shallow at low tide and it is fun to walk out through the seaweed farms and see the women planting seaweed or harvesting it. It is a new endeavor and very interesting.

 

The pool is a welcome place to play and relax in the afternoon. There are women on the beach that will draw henna designs on you too, or borrow a bike and ride along the beach or in town.

 

Day 3: Awake early to drive about an hour to the southern end of the island to Kizimkazi, where we will have the chance to take a boat out to where the dolphins swim. Then you can jump into the water and swim with the dolphins. Though it is usually a very short time that you are actually near these wonderful creatures, it is an experience that is hard to forget. 

 

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After the morning on the water, we repair for fish lunch along the beach and then head to Jozani Reserve to see the red colobus monkeys. It's a real nice place to walk around in and the monkeys can be quite sociable and friendly. Back to the Inn for a dip in the pool and dinner.

 

Day 4: Another day in an island paradise. A good day to take a trip over Stonetown sipping Arabian coffee and touring the shops. On the way, we can stop at one of the island’s famous spice plantations. Ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla don't grow in bottles. Your guides will lead you through a tropical forest full of spice treasures and you’ll discover the secrets about how these and other plants are used in the Spice Islands. Take some home if you like. 

 

You can also just stay at Sau Inn and snorkel again out in the lagoon. It's a place that I have no trouble just staying at.

 

 

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Day 5: On your last day on the islands, put the final touches on your tropical tan, or depending upon your flight schedule, take a final trip to Stonetown for last minute shopping and exploring the town. It won’t take much effort to get all of your Christmas shopping done here, and you can arrive back home with unique gifts that Wal-Mart has never heard of, for prices that even they can’t match!

 

Onward flights are either through Dar es Salaam or Nairobi. For those who wish to stay in Zanzibar or Tanzania longer, we can easily make arrangements for you. Otherwise, we hope to see you again next time!

 

 

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